What is Progressive Calisthenics?

If you have checked out my book, “The Calisthenics Quest”, then you have a small idea of what calisthenics is all about. But, what is progressive calisthenics? Calisthenics or as it is translated “beautiful movement”, is using your own body’s weight for fitness. But just like in any other fitness routine, you have to progress and, in some cases, regress. Let’s face it, after a wile those push-ups, pull-ups and squats are going to get a bit easier and you will have to add in a ton of reps to get that burn… or do you? There are many ways to progress your calisthenics workout without boosts reps or adding weight. So let’s look at some options…

First, look at slowing that tempo down. Sure you can now knock out 30-50 push-ups, but now try it slow with a tempo of 3 seconds down and 3 seconds up. That time under tension can be killer and your muscles will be burning with far less reps.

Another option is to increase the range of motion. A few good examples are, instead of bringing your legs to 90 degrees in a squat, go all the way down bringing your butt to your heels. In push-ups bring your chest all the way to the floor, or in pull-ups try pulling your chest to the bar. Full range of motion makes a big difference!

Finally, try to progress to a more challenging version of the basics. This can be done is many different ways. First look at the push-up. You can knock out lots of classic push-ups, so now try bringing your hands closer together or try them with your feet on a bench to change the angle. Of course, if that isn’t challenging enough, you have the one arm push-up. Pull-ups also have many varieties to choose from. Try progressing to the archer pull-up or even commando or L-sit pull-ups. As far as the squat goes, yes they can be made more challenging. Try the archer squat or the Bulgarian Split Squat. If you feel really adventurous, you can also try the pistol squat or the shrimp squat. They will not only challenge your strength but also your balance.

When it comes to progressive calisthenics, never be afraid to try new things but never forget the classics. They will always have their place in your routines. Keep advancing your Quest!

By, Ray Shonk NASM-Master Trainer, PCC Instructor

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Dip Progressions

When it comes to improving your fitness, you have to constantly keep yourself challenged. In weight training, this is done by increasing weight to increase difficulty. With calisthenics, however, it works  little differently. Challenging yourself and calisthenics can mean changing the angle, changing the depth of the movement, or looking at different variations of exercises for the same muscle group. Whether you’re lifting weights or doing calisthenics most of us are familiar with dips. When I was starting to increase the difficulty of my dips, I add weights. But taking a step back and taking a better look at the exercise I found that the weights are not necessary. As I progressed I moved from bench dips, to elevated bench dips, to parallel bar dips, the straight bar dips, and eventually Korean dips. Before I would progress from one to the other I made sure I was reaching the maximum depth with proper form to make sure I was maximizing my range of motion. One of the things I love most about calisthenics is the near limitless amount of exercises you can do if you get creative. You can find a video of all these dips here.

Want to get fit without paying for a gym membership? Do it all in the comfort of your home or local park with my new book The Calisthenics Quest!

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The Truth In My Fitness

I get a lot of comments on photos and articles that I post claiming that, of course I can do the things that I do because I’ve been fit my entire life. But, I can tell you that is not true. In high school, and my much younger years, I was very active and outdoorsy and constantly exercising, but there was a point in which I fell out of it, and through a good portion of my 20’s I was completely off the fitness bandwagon and started putting on a bit of weight and body fat. I came back onto the fitness scene with studying Taijiquan, and not long after I got into weight training. My primary goal, at first, was to start losing that weight that I had put on. And it was a struggle a lot of ups and downs in my diet anger over not seeing results right away and wanting to give up on more than one occasion. But with a lot of hard work, and a few years of busting my butt, I lost about 20 pounds. At this time I was doing a combination of weight training as well as calisthenics. And when I was doing this calisthenic training I will tell you firsthand that I could not do one single pull-up. After continuing to work for a few more years those pull-ups started coming along as well as hitting those crazy numbers on push-ups. It is honestly been within the last four years that I’ve become more calisthenic focused and it’s not because I dislike lifting weights. It was because I found calisthenics just work better for me. Now looking at some of the crazier calisthenic moves that I’ve been doing I want you to keep in mind that for a lot of those I train for well over six months just to do it for the first time and in some cases it took close to a year just to get it for the first time. So what I’m really trying to say is that this was all achieved through hard work not something that I have always been able to do I’m still striving for new goals just like everyone else, I even continue to watch my eating habits. If you have a goal you need to push for it and there will be ups and downs, but there are people out there that are more than willing to support you towards your goal.

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Get info on my up coming book.

Earning My PCC

So after a lot of uncertainty, I decided to bite the bullet and attend the first Boston PCC (Progressive Calisthenics Certification). I will admit I had no idea what to expect out of this 3 day, 8 hour a day workshop. First day in Boston I, of course, had to see the sites, because, hell! There is a ton of history here!

Day One of the PCC was a lot of push-ups and pull-up progressions showing how to advance from a beginner to advanced. I even managed to get my first one arm pull-up! After lunch we moved on to human flag progressions. Yup, you read that correctly. So, it was amazing to see how strong everyone was through all those progressions. We finished the day working on the mighty muscle-up. Yeah, I have been doing them for a while, but they showed me how to make them even more challenging by only using my wrists and going slow. ​

​Even better was seeing all the other people getting their first one! That night I got to go out with some friends from high school that I have not seen in almost 19 years. We had a blast! It was like nothing had changed.

Day Two was all legs and core work. There were a ton of first time moves for everyone! Some getting their first pistol or shrimp squats some getting their first front or back levers, for me, I got my first Meathook and Reverse Grip Back Lever! Even finished the day with a bad ass photo with Al and Danny Kavadlo.


Day Three I got to have breakfast with Danny and Al and just shoot the breeze. In class we went a bit lighter focusing on skills like hand balancing. I was impressed to see everyone’s skill level. They were some truly impressive people! After lunch the pressure was on… we had to test for our certification. When my name came up, my heart jumped up into my throat despite practicing this test over and over for the last few months. But I nailed it! After all was said and done, there were hugs all around. We were all like family in the end. I truly hope to stay in touch with my new calisthenics family.


Now, as the only Dragon Door certified calisthenics trainer in Michigan, I can’t wait to pass on all I have learned this long vacation!

See my personal journey.

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Latest Testimonial 

I have been working with Ray at Quest for a year now. Ray is a great personal trainer, he has encouraged and challenged me to reach each of my goals that I have set. He listens to what you want to accomplish and sets a workout plan to meet those goals! This is my first experience in working with a personal trainer, Ray makes you feel comfortable while pushing you to achieve your goals! I have never felt better in my life – better than my 30’s or 40’s! Thanks Ray!! -Deb

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Calisthenics Booty Building Clinic

This will be a class on progressions for leg workouts using body weight only. The cost of the class will be $25 per person. So come train with the only Dragon Door certified calisthenics trainer in Michigan!

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